Category Archives: Life

How the Bulls Dominated the NBA

Michael Jordan plays basketball better than anyone else in the world does anything else.

Scott Turow, quoted in Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made

The Chicago Bulls dominated their league like no other team in no other sport during the 1990’s. They won 6 NBA championships, an astounding record. 

I just finished reading the outstanding book Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. It’s an insightful look into what made Jordan and his Bulls so special. 

Here are some of their secrets:

1) Hard work. Jordan came to practice before anyone and left last. This got him from being rejected for the high school varsity to dominating the pros. 

2) Coachability. Anyone who coached Jordan, even in baseball, said he was unusually coachable. His willingness to learn from others, rather than think he knew everything, set him apart. 

Consider that for a player of his stature, it would be easy to dismiss a coach’s suggestion! But he didn’t. 

Even the quirky Dennis Rodman listened carefully to coach Phil Jackson’s lessons.

3) Love of the game. Both Jordan and Scottie Pippen stood out for truly loving basketball. 

Jordan even had a highly unusual clause in his contract. He could stop at any basketball court in the world, any time, and play a pickup game.

And he did so, frequently! I like imagining Jordan pulling up at a playground in a fancy car, lacing up his sneakers, and heading out onto the court.

I just wouldn’t want to have to guard him!

This type of clause is highly unusual due to the risk of injury, but Jordan insisted on it.

It’s hard to work at something so intensely for so many years if you don’t love it! And that’s what it takes to excel. 

4) Ability to see others strengths, not just their weaknesses.

Jackson was upset when Pippen refused to play at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals.  But he didn’t let that incident sour him on Scottie as a player.

Instead, he viewed it in the context of all of Scottie’s great work over the years.  Even the exacting Jordan became more aware of his teammates’ strengths over time.

This is an area I struggle with. If someone does one thing wrong, I tend to view them negatively, forgetting all their great work. 

I plan to take a lesson from Coach Jackson on this in the future! 

5) Never giving up. Jordan was famously cut by his high school team. 

Rodman didn’t even make the team at all. And Pippen started college basketball at a no-name school as the team equipment manager. 

These are not people you would think would’ve ever even made it to the NBA, much less won 6 championships. 

Their perseverance made the difference!

Check out this excellent book along with the addictive Netflix series The Last Dance. Even if you’re not a basketball fan, you can learn a lot from the Bulls about excellence in any field! 

More on leadership:

From Anticommunist to Navy SEAL: “I Owe Everything to America”

Jocko on Leadership: “Ownership Is the Most Valuable Compensation”

The Best Motivational Speech of 2021

Photo: “Michael Jordan” by simplistic.designs is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

At the Top Dog Gala!

On Tuesday night, I had the joy of attending the Top Dog Gala, a benefit for the Animal Medical Center (AMC) in New York City. AMC saved my little gerbil’s life three times and helped him live to a ripe old age, so I love getting a chance to support such a great cause!

AMC is an incredible place. It feels like a high end human hospital more than a veterinary one.

There are departments of hematology, orthopedics, radiology, you name it. The imaging machines they use were bought from human hospitals, just a couple years old.

There’s nowhere better to take your pet. And despite the very high level of care, you’d be surprised how reasonable their prices are!

On Tuesday night, we filed into the beautiful Cipriani 42nd Street in the heart of Manhattan. I had passed the building a million times but never been inside.

It’s a beautifully converted bank with some of the teller windows still intact! I admired the massive windows and velvet curtains while munching on delicious snacks.

As the dinner was about to start, a very funny older lady came from the bar:

I’m getting a double. It’s going to be a long night with a lot of speeches.

Chuckling to myself, I sat down at a table replete with flowers and the presentation began. AMC President Kathryn Coyne introduced us to Sadie, a very special German Shepherd who saved her owner Brian’s life when he was having a stroke.

She licked Brian’s face to keep him awake after the stroke, then helped drag him to the phone to call for help. Without Sadie, Brian wouldn’t be here.

They may not be able to speak, but it’s amazing how animals touch all our lives.

We also met the canine officers of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) police! I was struck by their bravery.

Humans sign up for that job. Dogs don’t. But they do it all the same, risking their lives to keep us safe.

The Top Dog Gala made it clear how animals support us. But how can we support them?

By supporting AMC! AMC gives away a fortune in free care every year for those who cannot afford it.

But they can’t do that without our help! Please consider joining me in donating to this wonderful cause today.

The cute doggies, kitties, birds and rodents will thank you!

More on animals:

Cute Animals Online: My Top 5

The Real Groundhogs of New Jersey

When The Cat Who Supported Her Through Cancer Got Sick, Jessica Knew What She Had to Do

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Starting a Financial Plan from 0

One of my oldest friends just got his dream job! He’s found fulfillment, accomplishment, and a lot more money.

But what should he do with it?

Matt* wanted to know how he could set himself up for a strong financial future, now that he’s finally making good money. I find a lot of friends and family in their 30’s asking me this question lately.

They come to me because I invest for a living and they want guidance. And I’m honored by that.

So I decided to sketch out a financial gameplan starting from zero, for them and for you.

Soon, you’ll be able to afford jewelry like Mr. T’s! 🙂

Step 1: Save 6 Month Emergency Fund

What if you lose your job or get sick? You don’t want to have to worry about being out on the street or unable to afford food.

And if you’re counting on unemployment, you’re putting yourself at serious risk. That check can take a very long time to come.

So I suggest saving six months of basic expenses in a high yield bank account (this is what I use). Basic expenses include rent or mortgage, utilities, and groceries.

You’ll get a little interest, but the real payoff is in financial security.

Why not just invest this money in the stock market? Because if the market drops by half all of a sudden, as happens from time to time, you won’t have six months of basic expenses anymore. You’ll only have three.

And that may not be enough.

Step 2: Pay Off Debt

It’s heretical to tell people not to pay off their debt first. But the reality is that lenders can often be stalled for a while. Your need to eat can’t.

Yes, your credit card or auto debt could accumulate for a bit while you save up your emergency fund. But it’s better than having an empty bank account if you lose your job.

I suggest keeping expenses down so you can save up that emergency fund and zap your debt ASAP. Once you have an emergency fund and no debt, you can relax a little.

When you’re ready to start paying off debt, choose the highest interest loans first.

If a loan has a lower interest rate than the stock market’s typical 10% return, it may make sense to invest instead of paying that loan off. This is often the case for mortgages.

Step 3: Start Investing

Yay! This is the fun part. This is when you go from just getting by to building wealth.

But investing is so confusing! Tons of companies, countless possibilities.

Here’s where to start: open a Vanguard account and just start buying the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index. On day 1, you’ll own almost 4,000 stocks.

And you’ll only pay 0.04% in management fees per year. On a $3000 account, that’s just $1.20.

Low fees are really important because high management fees can kill your returns.

I’ve used Vanguard for years and the service is outstanding. It forms a core part of my portfolio to this day.

To begin with, you’ll want to max out your 401k and IRA. Afterward, keep investing as much as you can!

It’s ambitious, but I suggest saving half your income if at all possible. It provides a wonderful cushion in tough times and can ultimately free you from working for others.

Step 4: Advanced Investing

You now own several thousand dollars worth of the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index. Congratulations, you capitalist fatcat!

Now, you may want to add other types of investments to your portfolio. Those could include international stocks and real estate, both of which Vanguard offers.

A portfolio with more diversification across parts of the world and asset classes (stocks vs. real estate, for example) tends to perform better over time.

Step 5: Ninja Level Investing

Once you’ve mastered the Vanguard game and built up a considerable balance, you may consider investing in private real estate (I use Fundrise) or tech startups.

These asset classes can provide higher returns, but they have a lot of risk. You often don’t get your money back for years, if ever.

If you’re just starting out, ninja level is a long way off. Crawl and walk before you try to run!

Wrap Up

I like seeing people take control of their lives and their money. That’s why I wrote this post.

If you follow this plan, you can go from an empty bank account and big credit card bills to a growing investment account paying you money.

You just have to take that first step!

Leave your questions in the comment section at the very bottom of the page!

More on money:

FOMO: Investors’ Worst Enemy

Where Can We Hide in a Financial Crisis?

Will Evergrande Spark a Global Financial Crisis?

*Not his real name

Photo: “Me & Mr. T” by roadkillbuddha is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

From Anticommunist to Navy SEAL: “I Owe Everything to America”

“I owe everything to America.”

That’s Thomas ‘Drago’ Dzieran, who left Communist Poland in the 1980’s for freedom in America and became a Navy SEAL. His path to the teams is singular.

Drago began to oppose Communism at an early age. He refused to learn Russian in school and was promptly hauled to the principal’s office. The principal explained to him that if he refused again, he could be taken from his family and sent to a foster home.

This did not stop Drago from questioning the Communist system. He listened secretly listened to the BBC on the radio, a highly illegal act. There he learned that the Communist government was killing people in Poland. He covered himself in blankets to dampen the sound as he listened, but his mother scolded him to use even more blankets and pillows lest a neighbor hear. If anyone heard, she could go to prison.

But Drago didn’t need a radio broadcast to tell him things in Poland weren’t right:

“I was always cold in Poland because we didn’t have good clothes.”

Privation was the norm, and he often went to school hungry. He took to assaulting the children of high party members, who were well fed. If you want to eat tomorrow, bring two sandwiches, he told them.

As a young man, Drago found himself in a Polish prison for printing anti-Communist leaflets. When released, he emigrated to the United States, and found himself resettled in Memphis, Tennessee by a refugee program.

The luxury of America amazed him. He had never seen air conditioning before, and found himself particularly mesmerized by American grocery stores. The cereal aisle had so many choices, and the packages were so attractive, he decided to try one. And another, and another. Soon, his cart was full of 50 boxes of cereal! But he couldn’t stop his curiosity:

“I didn’t even know what a cereal was.”

After a stint as an auto mechanic, Drago was looking for a way to serve his adopted home. He settled on being a Navy SEAL, but at 32, he was at least 4-5 years beyond the typical age limit. No matter. He powered through the qualification tests and insisted on being allowed into BUD/S. Drago later distinguished himself as a SEAL during the Iraq war.

Drago’s commitment to freedom continues today, as the founder of a censorship-free social network called Connectzing.

What really struck me in this interview was Drago’s perseverance, along with the stark differences between the United States and where he comes from. On living conditions in Poland under Communism:

“I would trade my life in Poland for prison here.”

After all, they get food and medical attention! That’s better than he got much of his life.

Drago says he owes everything to America, and that’s equally true for those of us who are native born. Let’s seize the opportunity, remembering these words:

“This is America. You can be whatever you’re able to be.”

For more on leadership and service, check out these posts:

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Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too!

Photo: “Navy SEAL Graduation” by uscgpress is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Jocko on Leadership: “Ownership Is the Most Valuable Compensation”

What motivates subordinates? A fat paycheck, stock options, maybe a free trip to Hawaii?

Perhaps. But on Monday’s Debrief podcast, Navy SEAL Commander and author Jocko Willink named another, more powerful inducement:

“Ownership is the most powerful compensation you can give a human being.”

People want control over their lives, including at work. So, rather than have subordinates execute your plan, Jocko favors giving them a goal and letting them figure out how they’ll get there on their own.

When a person gets a chance to come up with a plan themselves, they’ll find increasingly efficient ways to do it. After all, most of us like to think we’re smarter than the boss and should really be running things. This is our chance to prove it, and we’re unlikely to blow that chance.

What’s more, whether in the military or civilian world, subordinates are a lot more familiar with the nitty gritty of a certain job than the boss is. Leaving the details of a plan to them, with the boss just setting overall goals and then approving the plan to reach them, gives them more latitude to bring that experience to bear.

Finally, running things is fun! When it’s your little idea, you’re a lot more invested in it. So give your subordinates a chance to come up with plans themselves, rather than just waiting for instructions. You may be surprised how well they do.

For more on business and leadership, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/Facebook/etc. using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too!

In GameStop, An Unlikely Community

I spent some time browsing the GME sub* on Reddit yesterday, curious what some of the stock’s most fervent supporters are saying. What I found surprised me.

The most striking discussions were intensely personal. One poster described saving up his GameStop winnings for sex reassignment surgery, a lifelong dream (usernames redacted):

Other posters, who call themselves “apes” in a reference to the movie Planet of the Apes, were extraordinarily supportive. Some even expressed a determination to hold the stock to help the original poster, even though one person selling or holding won’t have a material impact on the price. There were a few salty words for hedge funder Ken Griffin though:

It struck me that, in a time when people are forced to be apart, humans have managed to create community in the most unlikely of places. It says something about the human spirit than even in a disembodied online world, where the topic is an intangible financial instrument, brotherhood (and sisterhood) flourishes. I find it rather beautiful.

That said, I encourage the posters to simply support each other as people, rather than tying that to a stock. Take it from a professional investor: a stock doesn’t know you own it and doesn’t care about you. It’s a legal construct that gives you ownership rights in a company. And truth be told, it’s a shaky business. I’d hate to see such nice people get hurt.

For more on GameStop and the Reddit trade, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/Facebook/etc. using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too!

*A sub, or subreddit, is a thematic category on the discussion website Reddit

Photo: “Gorilla ‘Kibo'” by to.wi is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Top 5 Things That Changed When I Started Working for Myself

For fourteen years, four months and eleven days, I worked in software. My job was like a lot of jobs: conducted in a cubicle or sometimes remotely, during regular business hours, and almost every week of the year.

In July of 2019, I left that job to make my investment business full time. I still remember the feeling when I walked out of the office for the last time into a hot, sunny summer’s day…”Wow, this is it, I’m really gone”.

Looking back on the past 21 months, I decided to write down a few of the biggest changes in my life since leaving the world of corporate employment:

1) Your time is your own. When I wake up in the morning, I eat breakfast and do a little journaling. I can plan out a day focusing on whatever I want. The ability to design your own day is a huge difference from working at a company, where you’re crossing off items on someone else’s to-do list.

2) You find yourself suddenly immersed in new areas on a regular basis. In the last couple of months, I’ve done deep dives into COVID, vaccines, meme stocks, and startups. Some for business purposes, some just because I’m interested. When your time is your own, you find yourself delving into new topics a lot more frequently.

3) It’s harder to decide what success means. At a job success means not getting fired, getting a raise every year, and maybe a promotion. How do you define success in your own business? That’s a lot more subjective, and I tend to move the goalposts further whenever I reach a goal. This can put you on something of a treadmill. It’s important to get off sometimes and smell the roses.

4) You have more energy. Even though I almost never use an alarm clock anymore, I wake up earlier and am more energetic in general. Being able to do what I want with my time gives me energy. Doing what someone else wanted all day tended to drain it.

If you can make money through something other than selling your time, like investing or writing or selling a software product, you can remove that ceiling on your income.

5) The sky is the limit. My investments this past year made far more than I ever made working, and new investments I’m planning in early stage startups could blow away all previous earnings if things go right. (Or go to zero if they go wrong!)

If you work for a company, your raises usually come yearly and they’re only so much. There’s a limit to how much an employer will pay for an hour of your labor in most fields. What’s more, you only have at most 24 hours a day to sell! But if you can make money through something other than selling your time, like investing or writing or selling a software product, you can remove that ceiling on your income.

If you can generate enough income to fund even a modest living, and you aspire to work for yourself, I encourage you to do it!

If you can generate enough income to fund even a modest living, and you aspire to work for yourself, I encourage you to do it! If you can’t, build up a side business over time and eventually you’ll be ready!

For more on improving your life, check out these posts:

Photo: “The Workaholic NSA” by herval is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Best Motivational Speech of 2021

Investor Jason Calacanis was in rare form on the All-in Podcast on Friday:

All of the answers are out there if you want to start a company. All the skills are freely available to you. You can learn anything online. I think the message I really want people to understand is you may believe that the world is filled with inequality and racism and bad actors. And you would be right.

But what’s also right is that every skill can be learned, capital is available now more than ever, and there is a clear path for you if you just stop watching television and learn to be a UX designer, a sales executive, a marketing or growth executive or a developer. You can change the world and change your lot in life and be really fucking rich.

Don’t buy into this victim mentality. It’s complete, utter nonsense that crazy lefties are saying ‘Everybody’s stupid and nobody can learn.’ And I got a bag of red pills here, and I have been pounding them. The world is a giant opportunity for all of you. Go get it! Go get it!

I find this mindset very inspirational, and accurate! Online courses are widely available and free or cheap, making knowledge easier to access than ever. Capital is flowing. The virus is receding. Things are not perfect and never will be, but what a great time to be alive!

For more on investing and the business of life, check out these posts:

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Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Jason Calacanis” by Peter Kaminski is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I Got The Moderna Vaccine! Here’s What It’s Like.

At 1:48pm today New Jersey time, I got my vaccine!

I’ve been waiting for this moment for many months, and I’m so grateful to have a chance to get it. It was the Moderna vaccine and I got it through the Hudson County vaccination site. So far, I feel 100%!

Having lived through the dark period of spring 2020 in the New York City area, when sirens were almost constant and my neighbors were dying in huge numbers, reaching this moment is cathartic. It prompted a lot of feelings for me: relief, gratitude, and hope!

So, what’s it like? This is a drive through site, and I don’t own a car, so I took an Uber. The driver very patiently waited with me in the lengthy line to get the jab. Many cars slowly snaked ahead in the cold snow.

Once we finally made it to the front, I showed a QR code on my phone that the county had e-mailed me. Shortly therafter, the nurse came up and asked if I had been feeling sick today. Then, she gave me the shot!

I barely felt a thing, which was surprising. Since then, I’ve had no side effects that I can discern. I hope it stays that way!

Just after the shot, we took the picture above. It’s actually staged…she had already given me the jab before we ever thought to document the moment for posterity! So she posed with the needle near my arm, and I took a snap to record this wonderful moment in my life that I’ve waited so long for.

“This is a historic moment,” she said. I agreed.

If you’re still trying to get an appointment, don’t give up! I’ve been checking every area provider’s website repeatedly for months. And I almost wasn’t going to check again today, but I did, and found an appointment for just 90 minutes away! Perhaps someone cancelled last minute. The best strategy seems to be to check over and over.

Now, I can begin to plan for a life after COVID. A week after the 2nd dose, which will be around the end of March, it should have achieved its full 94% efficacy. I will finally be able to get on a plane and visit my mom for the first time since December 2019! And I’m looking forward to getting some great protection even sooner: just 2 weeks after the first dose, the vaccine is 80% effective.

I really encourage everyone to get this vaccine, although I know each person has to make their own decision. COVID may be something to fear, but this really isn’t! If I didn’t keel over after, you won’t either! 🙂

When The Cat Who Supported Her Through Cancer Got Sick, Jessica Knew What She Had to Do

Jessica had battled a brain tumor for a decade and was finally feeling better. Her little cat Olive had stood by her throughout her treatment, and now they were relaxing together at their house in Harlem.

One weekend, Jessica couldn’t find Olive anywhere. She went down to the basement and heard faint meowing from the corner. Olive was very sick.

Jessica grabbed Olive and rushed for a taxi. Together, they headed to the Animal Medical Center (AMC) on New York City’s Upper East Side.

Dr. Kate Crecraft of AMC found that Olive had an extremely rare condition: a piece of grass had lodged itself in the sack around her heart (the pericardium). This was causing enormous fluid buildup and a life threatening infection.

Surgeons removed the blade of grass and treated the infection. After some TLC at home from her mom Jessica, Olive is feeling as good as ever!

Jessica finally had the chance to repay the friend who stood by her through her own illness. Now they’re together, healthy, and happy.

I found out about this story in a wonderful letter I received from AMC today. I know firsthand the good work they do; they saved my pet gerbil’s life multiple times. I wouldn’t want to take a pet anywhere else.

AMC is a marvel. There are departments of hematology, radiology, neurosurgery, everything the best human hospitals would have! But it all costs money, and as a nonprofit, AMC needs support from people like us.

If you want to be a part of incredible stories like this, please donate here.

How we treat these little animals says everything about us. Let’s enable more Olives to get well! When we heal them, we also heal the humans who love them.